US-Iran talks within weeks

The US and Iran are are planning to hold landmark talks in Baghdad in the next few weeks to discuss the security situation in Iraq, the Whitehouse has said.

Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, will represent Washington in the landmark talks with Tehran, which has not had diplomatic relations with the US in over 25 years.

Gordon Johndroe, a Whitehouse spokesman, said: "You could expect a meeting in the next few weeks with ambassador Crocker and Iranians.

"The purpose is to try to make sure that the Iranians play a productive role in Iraq."

The US has accused Tehran of aiding Shia militia groups and attacking US soldiers, claims vehemently denied by Tehran.

Tensions have also intensified in recent months over the arrest by the US of seven Iranians accused of being intelligence operatives


Book Reviewer
headed up in The Independent earlier this month:

Leading article:
Tehran holds the key to Washington's exit from Iraq
Published: 03 May 2007

There are times, the US must reflect, when isolationism and unilateralism seem infinitely simpler guiding principles for foreign policy than engagement. Iran offers a prime example. The US broke off relations in 1979 when its Tehran embassy came under siege and its diplomats were taken hostage. Since then - that is, over the whole career of many senior US politicians and diplomats - there has been no official communication at all. A flickering of improvement in the late Clinton years was snuffed out as soon as George Bush came to office: his first State of the Union address included Iran in the "axis of evil". Nothing has changed significantly since then.

What is different today is that the US needs better relations with Iran at least as much as, and probably more than, Tehran needs a thaw with Washington. The result is a complex diplomatic dance in which the US shuffles around offering small come-ons to Tehran through intermediaries, while loudly accusing it of heinous crimes, such as supplying money and technology to Islamic militants and trying to develop a nuclear weapon. When Iran equivocates and then rejects the offers, Washington turns round and blames it for being difficult.

Two meetings taking place this week will determine whether either side is quite ready for the diplomacy that is the only way out of this long-standing impasse. At talks in London, representatives of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, are discussing what more can be done to persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear programme, and whether that "more" should be primarily stick or carrot. The meeting will hear a report from the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, on his recent talks with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. Mr Solana has said that he is sure Iran wants to talk. The US State Department seems to want to listen, and says there is a reasonable plan on the table. The question is whether anyone else in Washington is interested in listening, too.

The second meeting, which takes place in Egypt tomorrow is no less crucial. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will sit with foreign ministers from states neighbouring Iraq to discuss how they might help in restoring the country's security. The meeting is expected to provide an opportunity for the US and Syria to start talking. The hope is that the US and Iran might make a tentative step towards each other, too.

This, however, is more problematical. To say that Iran has played hard to get before the talks is an understatement. Yesterday's announcement by President Ahmadinejad that he would welcome US-Iranian talks on the margins of the conference is still no guarantee that a meeting will happen. And even if there is a meeting, there can be no certainty that Iran will be at all interested in what Washington really wants and needs - which is a pledge from Iraq's neighbours to become involved, in a positive and non-sectarian way, in Iraq.

And here is the nub of the US problem. Washington desperately needs the co-operation of Syria and Iran if it is to have a chance of extracting itself from Iraq with even a shred of dignity. Yet it refuses to countenance any serious concession on Iran's nuclear programme. In trying to keep the two issues separate, Washington risks putting itself in the absurd situation of begging Iran to help it out in Iraq, while threatening military force against its nuclear installations. If the US is serious about either issue, it will have to show more flexibility on both. First, though, it will have to accept a link between the two and agree that, in any direct talks with Iran, everything - including diplomatic recognition - will be on the table.

It will be interesting to see if domestic lobbies ( not least AIPAC) manage to derail this. Should not underestimate the political courage this must have taken.....W-a-a-a-a-y overdue !

( Not-Whistlin'-Dixie - can we at least postpone Op Persian Freedom ?)

'Jaw-jaw is better than war, war '

Don Cabra
Goatman asked: can we at least postpone Op Persian Freedom ?


Gary Dorsch says that strong foreign capital inflows are driving up the Israeli shekel against the US dollar and the euro and levitating the Tel-Aviv 100 equities index to its all-time high.

This is happening, he says, notwithstanding that Israeli interest rates are significantly lower than their American and European counterparts:

...the "Incredible" Israel shekel is climbing to seven-year highs against the US dollar, flirting with the psychological 25 US-cents level, or 4 shekels per US dollar. Also, the Tel-Aviv 100 Index hit an all-time high of 1,100 on May 3rd, more than tripling in value from four years ago, after Israel's economy expanded at an 8% rate in Q'4, exceeded only by emerging giants in China, India, and Russia.

The "Incredible" Israeli shekel's climb to 25 US-cents comes amid reports that Syria is positioning thousands of missiles on its border with Israel. Iran and Syria have restocked Hizbullah with thousands of missiles and rockets in defiance of UN resolutions, and Sheik Nasrallah is once again capable of striking Tel-Aviv. Iranian backed Hamas has transferred tons of explosives and missiles into the Gaza Strip and is firing kassam rockets into southern Israel on a daily basis.

Dorsch also says that the smart money says that Olmert and Kadima are on the way out, Netanyahu and Likud are coming in.

Dorsch says that Netanyahu was behind a cut in corporate marginal income tax rates that may be at least partially responsible for this boom.

He adds that Netanyahu has big plans:

"This is just a message that we are very eager to pull in investments and we are willing to go the distance, probably even more than any other country right now in the world," said Netanyahu in April 2004. He laid out his vision of Israel as a land-bridge between Asia and Europe, competing with the Suez Canal by building a rail line between its Ashdod Port on the Mediterranean Sea and Eilat on the Red Sea.

Prominent American tycoons are talking up the Israeli investment boom:

In June 2006, the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway purchased an 80% share in Iscar, an Israeli metalworking company, for $4.1 billion, his first acquisition outside of the US. "With this purchase, we are sending an indirect message to the world for foreign investors to make similar investments," said Charlie Munger, Buffet's partner at Berkshire Hathaway.

"Berkshire Hathaway and Israel will be here forever, as Israel and the US will be here forever," said Buffet himself. Several weeks later, US billionaire Donald Trump declared, "I am confident that Israel's future can only go in one direction, and that is up." Trump purchased a site in upscale Ramat Gan to build the 70-story "Trump Plaza Tower," next to the Israel Diamond Exchange, for $300 million. Trump also plans to build a 647-room resort hotel in the coastal town of Netanya.

"The 'Incredible' Israeli Shekel" by Gary Dorsch. 8 May 2007

It seems counterintuitive that all this money would be flowing into Israel ($21.2 bil in '06) if its owners were expecting the place to turn into a battleground.
Apparently last week Pres. Bush summoned a group of influential evangelical Protestant clergymen to the White House to hear him holding forth on the Iranian nuclear threat.

This is from Raw Story:

President George W. Bush met privately with Focus on the Family Founder and Chairman James Dobson and approximately a dozen Christian right leaders last week to rally support for his policies on Iraq, Iran and the so-called "war on terror."

“I was invited to go to Washington DC to meet with President Bush in the White House along with 12 or 13 other leaders of the pro-family movement," Dobson disclosed on his radio program Monday. “And the topic of the discussion that day was Iraq, Iran and international terrorism. And we were together for 90 minutes and it was very enlightening and in some ways disturbing too."

Dobson described Bush as “upbeat and determined and convinced, adding, “I wish the American people could have sat in on that meeting we had.”

Dobson went on to enumerate a series of meetings convened by Christian right leaders in Washington to discuss the supposedly existential threat to the United States from a nuclear Iran.

“I heard about this danger [from Iran] not only at the White House but from other pro-family leaders that I met during that week in Washington," he said. “Many people in a position to know are talking about the possibility of losing a city to nuclear or biological or chemical attack. And if we can lose one we can lose ten.

"If we can lose ten we can lose a hundred," he added, “especially if North Korea and Russia and China pile on.”

Later in his broadcast, during a discussion about Iran with author and self-proclaimed “prophecy expert” Joel Rosenberg, Dobson drew a parallel between current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Adolf Hitler.

“The world looked at Hitler and just didn't believe him and tried to appease him the way we're hearing in Washington today,” Dobson remarked. “You know, the President seems to me does understand this, as I told you from that meeting I had with him the other day, but even there it feels like somebody ought to be standing up and saying, ‘We are being threatened and we are going to meet this with force -- whatever's necessary.’”

Dobson continued, “Some of our listeners might not like that but I tell you, if we didn't stand up to Hitler, we'd be speaking German today.”

"Bush met with Dobson and conservative Christian leaders to rally support for Iran policy" by Max Blumenthal. 14 May 2007

Rev. Dobson's radio and television broadcasts are widely syndicated in the USA.

If he and his colleagues are responding favorably to White House suggestions to publicize the "existential threat" purportedly embodied by the current Iranian regime, I could guess that big developments could be in the works for the near future.

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